Directed by Eric Stanze (2000)
Reviewed by Jeff, added on Oct 7 2007
While doing some research for my August Underground review I encountered, in a couple different places, people making comments such as "August Underground is just a ripoff of Scrapbook!" and "Scrapbook is much better than August Underground!" Now, that didn't seem to be the prevailing sentiment by any means, but the comments popped up here and there. This intrigued me because I had never heard of Scrapbook at all, and since I thought AU was a remarkable film (if not a particularly great one; there's a difference) of course I had to hunt down a copy of Scrapbook.
I apologize to director Eric Stanze and the makers of Scrapbook for reviewing their film totally through the prism of August Underground, but as I said, the whole impetus for me watching Scrapbook was the comparisons to AU that I was reading. To be fair, Scrapbook came out in 2000 whereas AU came out in 2001, so Stanze's film hit the scene first.
Scrapbook opens with a scene from the point of view of a young boy, Leonard, as he wanders into his older sister's bedroom. The sister appears to be in her late teens or early twenties, and she coaxes Leonard into having sex with her. It's a pretty strange idea, an older sister molesting her young brother isn't a plot element that I've seen anywhere else. Leonard's older brother catches the two fooling around and beats up Leonard for it. I guess the point of this sequence is to explain the origin of the murderous 27-year-old Leonard featured in the rest of the movie? His sister diddled him when he was a rug rat so now he murders chicks? Ok, I suppose I can go with that.
Leonard kidnaps a young woman named Clara and hauls her into his run-down farmhouse. He shows her his scrapbook, a record of all his victims. I really liked the basic idea behind the scrapbook, which shows Leonard forcing his captives to write in the book between sessions of torture. In a dialogue with Clara, Leonard explains that he wants to be famous (typical serial killer egomaniac stuff) and his scrapbook will grant him that fame. He tells Clara that she is to be the final chapter in his book before he... um, I dunno, drops it off at the newspaper office or something.
There's some cat-and-mouse stuff, where Clara gets out of her locked room and tries to escape a couple times. Leonard, of course, recaptures her and drags her back. By the end of the movie, Clara appears to be giving in to Leonard in a Stockholm syndrome sort of way. She starts voluntarily writing in the scrapbook, and her entries start surprising Leonard. Is she falling for him? Does she really understand him when no one else can? Or is she trying to buy time for an escape?
I was moderately interested in the plot throughout the film's runtime, although I did think it dragged a bit. I think Stanze and writer Tommy Biondo (who also played Leonard) had something worthwhile in Scrapbook's concept, but the execution fails in a few ways. The acting is a bit poor, but I hate to rag on DIY filmmakers too much for acting issues. The actress who plays Clara, Emily Haack, does an okay job but - and I don't want to sound like a dick here - her goofy buzzcut hairdo and several tattoos hurt the character for me. Instead of looking like an innocent girl kidnapped by a psycho killer, she looks like a goth chick whose boyfriend asked her to be in a horror movie he was making. The ages of the actors hurt the film in a similar way. Even if they were the greatest actors in the world, you look at these young people and you don't buy that it's a serial killer and his victim; you just think: Here's some kids who're making a horror movie. Again, I love the DIY spirit so I hate to paint that so negatively, but there it is.
The other thing that Scrapbook doesn't quite pull off is its depictions of extreme subject matter. There's very little gore aside from a couple pretty nifty looking corpses that Leonard has lying around the house. August Underground definitely out-gores Scrapbook. One thing Scrapbook does have is rape, and lots of it. Leonard forces himself on Clara over and over again, full frontal on display. There seemed to be about a hundred shots of Leonard's skanky weiner bobbing around. I felt the constant near-porn rape scenes were gratuitous. This aspect of the movie would definitely be the most disturbing and extreme thing about it. I don't know if the actors were actually dating or something, but I think there may have been some actual penetration. It's all just pretty weird and gross. I guess I'll give kudos to Biondo for being so comfortable with himself that he can sling his wang all over the place on camera.
So, getting back to the beginning, where I said I watched Scrapbook because I had heard it compared to August Underground. I think I would say that Scrapbook is superior to the first AU movie. At the same time I would say that the AU trilogy is better than Scrapbook, but is that fair? Three movies versus one? I will hand it to Scrapbook: It's got a cohesive plot, a couple really interesting ideas, great sets, some lovely scenery in the exteriors of Leonard's rural house and a pretty satisfying ending. If you liked AU, I would recommend taking a look at Scrapbook. If the fringey stuff turns your stomach, you should probably pass.